The Florida Legislature completed the seventh week of the Regular Session today. There are 14 days left in the Session. The Legislature is expected to begin budget conferencing next week once allocations are released.
Governor DeSantis signed nine bills into law Thursday, including a bill (SB 7014) to extend protections from COVID-19 liability lawsuits to nursing homes, hospitals, and doctors. Additionally, the law clarifies that to sue a health care provider regarding COVID-19 successfully, the plaintiff has to prove gross negligence or intentional misconduct. The new law also clarifies that health care providers have COVID-19 liability protections until June 1, 2023.
Executive Appointments Confirmed
The Florida Senate took up executive appointments during their Floor Session on Wednesday. Among various board appointments, the Senate also confirmed the Secretary of Juvenile Justice, Eric Hall, the Secretary of Elder Affairs, Michelle Branham, and the State Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo. The debate over Ladapo’s appointment lasted close to an hour, after which the Senate voted along party lines 24-15 in favor of Ladapo. The Democrats objected to his appointment, because the doctor did not offer vocal support for Covid-19 vaccines.
House Tax Package Worth $325 Million Proposed
The House Appropriations Committee added to the current tax package, creating a cut to state and local revenues by approximately $325 million next fiscal year. HB 7101 includes sales-tax holidays on back-to-school items, tools and worker equipment, and hurricane supplies. There is an added sales-tax break known as “Freedom Week” for purchases related to tickets for to music events, parks, museums, theaters, sporting events, and purchases like camping supplies or other equipment/supplies for outdoor activities. Eliminating the taxes on admissions for tickets to FIFA World Cup matches and qualifying matches was added as well. Tax breaks for “short line” freight railroads, such as the Florida East Coast Railway and the Alabama Gulf Coast Railway, are included that would give them credits against corporate income taxes equal to 50 percent of investments for maintaining of improving tracks. An exemption was also added for the sales tax on admissions to Formula One Grand Prix races. Energy Star appliances and impact-resistant windows, doors, and garage doors would also see sales-tax breaks. Tax relief for property owners affected by sudden and unforeseen collapse of residential buildings, in response to the Champlain Towers South collapse, was included as well. The House package does not include a proposal promoted by Governor DeSantis for a five-month suspension of the state gasoline tax starting in July.
Broadband Bill Advances Minus $500 Million in Funding
The Senate stripped $500 million funding from two bills, SB 1800 and SB 1802, which would help broadband providers expand service to rural, unserved areas. The sponsor, Senator Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, explained to the Senate Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee that it was unclear when federal funding to support the program would arrive in the state. The bills will go to the Senate Appropriations Committee next. The House companions, HB 1543 and HB 1545 are awaiting a hearing in the House Commerce Committee, which may not meet again this Session.
Consumer Data Privacy
Despite concerns from the business community, HB 9 by Representative Fiona McFarland, regarding strengthening consumer data privacy in Florida, passed its final House Committee. The bill gives consumers the right to determine what personal information has been collected, delete or correct the data, and opt out of selling or sharing personal information. The Senate companion to the bill, SB 1864 by Senator Jennifer Bradley, has not received a hearing in any Senate Committees, throwing doubt as to whether the Senate will even consider the measure this Session.
Local Business Protection Act
HB 569, by Representative Lawrence McClure, passed its final Committee and is ready for consideration by the full House. The bill passed 13-7, with each Democratic member of the Committee voting against the bill. The bill allows businesses to sue local governments over ordinances that results in a certain amount of revenue loss. The bill’s companion, SB 620 by Senator Travis Hutson, is already in the House in Messages.
The House Redistricting Committee met today and took up two draft Congressional maps. The maps were both drawn to configure districts to maintain Black performing districts to avoid diminishing a minority communities’ ability to elect a Congressperson of their choice. The full House is the next stop for the approved maps.
Webinar Replay: Part 1 Redistricting 101: An Overview of the Redistricting Process and the Impact on Florida Businesses – November 19, 2021
Webinar Replay: Part II Redistricting 101: A Legislative Update on Redistricting- January 28, 2022